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Mecca Masjid blast: CBI focuses on local angle

By Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad
June 12, 2010 16:07 IST
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Even as the process of brining the two accused of Ajmer Dargah blast to Hyderabad for questioning in the Mecca Masjid blast case was continuing, the Central Bureau of Investigation has made some more headway in the three-year-old blast case.

A CBI team will reach Hyderabad on Monday with the two suspects, 36-year-old Devender Gupta, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha pracharak, and his 30-years-old accomplice Lokesh Sharma on Monday and they will be produced before the special CBI court.

According to the CBI sources, they have identified a hotel in Secunderabad where the two absconding suspects Sandeep Dange and Ramachandra Kasalangar along with two other suspects Lokesh Sharma and Sunil Joshi had stayed two months before carrying out the terror attack on Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007.

While Sunil Joshi was later murdered in Madhya Pradesh, Lokesh Sharma along with Devender Gupta was arrested by Rajasthan's Anti Terrorist Squad in April. All of them have been identified as activists of Abhinav Bharat, a right wing Hindu outfit earlier accused of involvement in Malegaon blast.

CBI sources said that it was in this hotel that the suspects had assembled the improvised explosive device using a Nokia phone and a SIM card, procured on the basis of a fake driving license.

CBI sources also said Lokesh Sharma visited Hyderabad thrice and conducted a reconnaissance of the Mecca Masjid. CBI has also learnt that the bomb was planted by three suspects -- Sunil Joshi, Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kaslangar. According to the CBI, Dange and Ramachandra alias Ramji were absconding and a manhunt has been launched for them.

During the investigation, Madhya Pradesh has emerged as a hub of these terror activities. Lokesh Sharma belongs to Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and Sandeep Dange and Ramchandra Kasalangar belong to Indore.

In an indication that the CBI's probe into the dormant case was gathering momentum, a team of CBI officials led by DIG Ashok Tiwari met the Hyderabad police commissioner A K Khan and sought his cooperation.

Khan assured the CBI of full assistance and cooperation in the investigations in Hyderabad. CBI was trying to find out the local contacts of the suspects and the interrogation of Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma was likely to throw some light on their local network in Hyderabad. "It would not have been possible to execute this plan with out local help," a CBI official said.

CBI has traced some relatives of Lokesh Sharma working in a defence organisation in Hyderabad and he had visited them during his stay in Secunderabad. While these relatives could be witness of the fact that Lokesh had in fact stayed in the city, CBI said that they were not aware of his sinister designs.

CBI sources said that the case has been more or less cracked and they need to fill some blanks with the help of Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma. Apart from arresting the two absconding suspects Ramji and Dange, CBI have two more tasks to complete before firing the charge sheet.

One is to trace and arrest Swami Aseemanand, who is also suspect of being the main conspirator behind the Hyderabad and Ajmer blasts; and second is to find out the persons and motive behind the murder of Sunil Joshi, another suspect.

15 people were killed in the Mecca Masjid blast and subsequent police firing on May 18, 2007 and three people died in the blast in Ajmer's Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Dargah on October 11, 2007. 

Significantly, Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma were earlier arrested by Rajasthan police in connection with Ajmer blast, but they were released later.

According to the sources, the police had reached Gupta and Sharma on the basis of the SIM card recovered from a Nokia mobile in an unexploded bomb in Ajmer blast.

The question doing the rounds is that why Hyderabad police could not locate the suspects from the SIM card recovered from another unexploded bomb in Mecca Masjid. Though the Hyderabad police had found out that the SIM card was purchased from Jharkhand on the name of Babu Lal, same name used to buy the other set of SIM cards used in Ajmer blast.

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Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad